Hatred is currently portrayed as a mortal sin; as a feeling so beyond the pale that no decent person feels it.
We are counselled to be angelically forgiving and “inclusive”, to the degree that no one, however bad or ill-intentioned, no matter what impact they are having on our lives or the prospects for our children, falls outside the compass of our compassion. Legislators are drafting hate speech laws in order to penalize “all forms of intolerance”, as if tolerance were unconditionally virtuous.
Here are some of the outfits set up to combat "hate": "Hope not Hate", "No Hate Alliance", "No Hate Speech Movement", "Unite Against Hate", "Come Together Against Hate". And yet, have these people ever bothered to ask what it is that is hated?
Instead of creating a new slogan let's reflect on what hatred is and try to understand it.
Hatred is a way of relating to certain objects, people or ideas. Many dictionaries define it as “intense dislike” towards a person or object. It signifies a relationship of intense hostility. It can be relatively trivial, as when we hate a certain food or it can be immensely serious, as when one mass of people hates another mass of people.
I think hatred can be better defined as an attitude of sustained hostility.
The Allies in WWII had to maintain an attitude of sustained hostility towards the Axis powers in order to sustain the will to fight. Once the aggression of the Nazis was eliminated there was no longer any need to hate Germans, though plenty of people did because of the suffering they had caused.
Let’s try and break it down.
According to psychologists, an attitude is composed of 3 elements:
- A cognitive element which consists of beliefs and ideas about the object
- An emotional element which consists of feelings towards the object
- A behavioral element which is usually an expression of the cognitive and emotional elements but which also reinforces them. However, behavior is not always consistent with the beliefs and feelings of the attitude, as for example when behavior is constrained by social pressure
Attitudes persist over long periods, often a lifetime or, at a collective level, for centuries. If hatred is an attitude of sustained hostility, then what sustains it? The answer lies in the cognitive and behavioral components.
Beliefs and ideas about the hated other are stored and rehearsed in the cognitive domain. It is here that beliefs are stored and elaborated; where memories of past wrongs are held; where extrapolations towards future scenarios based on past experience or reported experience are projected in the imagination; where inferences about likely behavior are tested. Without this dimension to sustain it, hostility would be much less persistent and less virulent.
But I would argue there is a further dimension to hatred that goes beyond hostility. This is the really toxic antipathy that demonizes and vilifies the hated group. The classic case is Nazi hostility towards Jews and the extermination program it gave rise to.
The Nazi Holocaust is an ever-present reminder of just how far this sort of hatred can go. There have been many other mass exterminations since then: Cambodia, Rwanda, Darfur, Yazidis.
What concerns the custodians of our morals who are busy drafting hate speech laws and provisions against discrimination? They are obviously not concerned that I might hate dogs or cats or even my great aunt. The kind of hatred they worry about is that directed towards a group of people, particularly if that group is currently a minority.
They are worried that hateful words could lead to discrimination against such a group; in fact, this is exactly what they charged Geert Wilders with in the recent hate speech trial. Wilders had asked the people assembled at a political rally if they wanted more Moroccans or less in the Netherlands.
What matters to the legislators of hate speech is not how disruptive of society a (current) minority might be; no, the real threat is public discussion of the issues “because it could lead to discrimination”. But if they are forbidding discussion of the issues they are discriminating against the host society. They don’t see this fact because from their viewpoint discrimination can only occur against a minority.
Let’s have a think about what hatred is and the degrees of it there are.
As I’ve said, at one level hatred can be thought of as a type of sustained hostility. Such hostility can be based on experience. If your family has been persecuted by a defined group of people for generations, you may well feel intense and sustained hostility towards that group.
This hostility can be described as reciprocal because it results from hostility directed towards us. This is the foundation of the “cycle of violence” understanding of conflict. Mutual hatred arises from the interaction between two groups. It boils down to perceptions and misunderstandings. From this perspective, the solution to conflict is de-escalation through the development of mutual understanding. If we can reduce mutual distrust and hostility, we can arrive at a point where two groups coexist peacefully instead of hating each other.
Hostility towards others may also be driven by group membership. As a member of group A, I may be expected to be hostile towards group B. This kind of hostility is bound up with my personal identity.
I only feel myself to be a full member of the group by feeling and expressing my hostility towards the out-group. I gain approval from my detestation of the out-group. In fact, if I fail to show enough hostility I will be suspected of disloyalty towards the in-group. In some groups this could be fatal and it therefore pays to express intense hatred towards the out-group.
The hostility described above is still “unwritten”; it is still relatively informal. The next level up from this is the hostility that is codified in a political doctrine like Nazism.
In the case of Nazism the doctrine was based on the racial supremacy of the in-group; this supremacy is the logical precondition for the inferiority of others. It also includes the rhetoric of dirtiness and disgust. The Nazis viewed the Jews as dirty, degenerate, and corrupting. In-group members were expected to feel disgust towards them. This type of hatred could be described as doctrinal hatred.
It is in the context of this type of hostility that the rhetoric of extermination tends to arise. The hated people are so foul and corrupting that the rational course of action is to eradicate them.
This form of hostility goes beyond intense dislike and enters the domain of what I would define as true hatred. The hostility includes the impassioned and emotive elements of dirtiness, disgust, and corruption. There is moral dimension to this hatred in so far as the hatred becomes framed as the right and proper response to a vilified group.
The behavioral component can again be seen reinforcing this hatred when Jews were discriminated against and mistreated, the need for consistency between the attitudinal components would tend to reinforce the belief that they deserved it; that they truly were a dirty and corrupting threat.
We can certainly understand why the hate-speech legislators want to avoid this kind of scenario. Whether they are going the right way about it is another matter.
The final form of hatred is theological. This has proven to be the most durable and extensive form of hatred. It combines all the forms of hatred outlined above:
- Reciprocal hostility
- Group membership
- In-group superiority
- Disgust and enmity towards out-group members
- The belief that discrimination and persecution of out-group members is morally right
Islam is a perfect illustration of theological hatred.
The Koran makes many allusions to the idea that non-Muslims are envious and devious towards Muslims and that they aim to draw them away from Islam. They feel enmity towards Muslims which will never end due to their desire for Muslims to leave Islam and become like themselves, which is to say, lovers of falsehood and enemies of truth, spreading corruption.
“And they will never cease fighting you until they turn you back from your religion if they can."(Koran 2:217).
“They [the unbelievers] but wish that ye should reject Faith, as they do, and be on the same footing (as they)." (Koran 4:89)
“Verily, those who disbelieve spend their wealth to hinder (men) from the path of Allah, and so they will continue to spend it;” (Koran 8:36)
The effect of these teachings is to sow the seeds of mistrust between Muslims and outsiders; it fosters a paranoia about the intentions of non-Muslims and thus fuels a cycle of reciprocal hostility.
Islam takes great pains to separate Muslims from non-Muslims and to ensure that Muslims feel superior to all other people. It declares that, “The believers are the best of people” and that, “Unbelievers are the worst of creatures.” Non-believers are collectively described as “filthy kuffar”.
The emotional intensity attached to the word kuffar should not be underestimated. Being derived from the word for non-belief [in Islam], it essentializes the distinction between the Muslim and the “other”. It really does “otherize” people. There is a strong feeling of disgust and contempt.
In the Koran, Muslims are admonished not to take non-believers as friends and are warned that if they do so they effectively become one of them. When they are in the company of non-believers they should always maintain an attitude of enmity in their hearts, cursing them inwardly, even if they are forced to feign affection.
“O you who believe! Do not take the Jews and the Christians for your friends and protectors. They are but friends and protectors to each other. And he among you that turns to them is of them. Verily Allah does not guide an unjust people.” (Koran 5:51)
“…and thou wilt never cease to light upon some act of treachery on their part, except a few of them.” (Koran 5:13)
“Allah has cursed them [the Jews] for their unbelief” (Koran 4:46)
All the functional components of Nazism such as in-group superiority, contempt for inferior and corrupting out-group members are here.
Hostility towards non-believers is a defining characteristic of group membership. Non-belief [in Islam] is “worse than killing”; a principle which underpins the unending warfare against non-believers.
Koranic verses are constantly addressed to “Ye who believe”, thus delineating believers from non-believers, and describing the ruin and misery that will be the lot of non-believers and the rewards that will accrue to Muslims. Muslims are frequently enjoined to look forward to watching the torments of non-believers as they roast in Hellfire.
What is notable about this group membership is that it is based purely on belief versus non-belief. It makes absolutely no difference if the non-believers are perfectly good people. The worst Muslim is better than the best non-Muslim.
Those showing disloyalty towards the in-group (apostates) are to be executed. “Whoever changes his [Islamic] religion, then kill him.” The world’s most popular sheikh, Yusuf Qaradawi, has even said that Islam would have ceased to exist if it were not for this rule.
Islam has an elaborate doctrine based upon the Koran, the Hadith, and the Sira, in which the superiority of Islamic belief and Muslims is articulated. The primary condition of group membership is the belief that “there is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is his messenger.” Adhere to this belief and you a member of the in-group. As a member of the in-group you are superior to out-group members; you must however obey a complex system of rules in order to be considered a “true” member.
Islamic doctrine articulates in great detail why non-Muslims should occupy an inferior position in an Islamic state. It states that a non-Muslim should not have authority over Muslims; that churches and synagogues should be smaller than mosques; that the houses of non-Muslims should be poorer than those of Muslims; that non-Muslims should always give way to Muslims and be humble and respectful towards them; a Muslim cannot be severely punished for killing a non-Muslim; that the presence of non-Muslims is always a source of offense to Muslims; that non-Muslims must pay a special protection tax (jizya) to the state in order to avoid the destruction of their property and persons.
As a general principle, it is important that non-Muslims are seen to be less successful and more miserable than Muslims and there exist a whole raft of measures to ensure that this is so, particularly under the conditions of the dhimma.
The cognitive, emotional, and behavioral components of the hate-filled attitudes are all working together in the Islamic worldview. The reasons why non-believers are to be mistrusted and despised are elaborated; the negative feelings towards them are rehearsed and interwoven with the cognitive elements; and where non-Muslims are mistreated and discriminated against it is seen to be right and proper and in accordance with the moral order of the universe. Hatred is righteous.
The foundation of the theological hatred of Islam was recently stated clearly by ISIS:
“Even if you were to stop bombing us, imprisoning us, torturing us, vilifying us, and usurping our lands, we would continue to hate you because our primary reason for hating you will not cease to exist until you embrace Islam.”
This has been the fundamental disposition of Islam towards non-believers for 1400 years.
The theological doctrine of hatred towards non-believers is projected into eternity over and over again in Muhammad’s pronouncements about their ultimate fate. They are destined for Hell and the believers will be able to enjoy the sound of their torments in the afterlife. It is a doctrine of everlasting hatred.
I hope I’ve shown how these doctrines take hatred to a completely new level and intensity and just how intractable the hatred is. Every avenue of escape is covered.
Hatred often contains an element of fear. The Nazis feared what they saw as the corrupting effect of the Jewish presence. They were also concerned about racial purity and wanted to restore the Aryan race to what they saw as its prior glory. To this end they went to considerable lengths to try and establish their pristine racial and cultural antecedents.
To the Nazis, Jews were associated with the threat of communism, universality, decadent art and music. All these were threats to German culture and the sanctity of the historic people, the volk.
Just as the Nazis saw the Jews as a source of decadence and corruption, so does Islamic theology see non-Muslims (and particularly the Jews).
A crucial component of Islamic theology is the concept of fitna. Fitna refers to trial, temptation, and persecution; it is very broad in its scope and can denote anything that could lead a Muslim to turn away from Islam.
This possibility is viewed with fear and revulsion; it is the ultimate disaster from an Islamic point of view. This helps us understand why non-Muslims are the objects of such hatred: they represent the temptation of unbelief (kufr).
You could take the view that the problem of fitna is merely one of perception. If we could reassure Muslims that we have no desire to tempt them away from Islam they would cease to feel threatened. Unfortunately, fitna is not a problem of perception; it is a problem of existence. The simple fact of our non-believing status is an affront and to be prospering in unbelief an even greater one.
The issue here is one of doctrine and it is very hard to assess what proportion of Muslims are assiduous in their application of it. Knowledge and fervor are the key variables. What is fairly certain is that the subtle influence of group membership will bias Muslim perception in favor of the in-group. This bias will afford sympathy for those who are rigorous devotees, however murderous they are.
Logically, in the face of such a threat we should respond with sustained hostility. Our friendliness will make no difference; in fact, it may only be seen as an allurement. Within the fitna worldview we are damned if we do and damned if we don’t. No amount of kindness and generosity can overcome this mentality but resistance will always be inflated into a further pretext for hostility.
Accommodating non-Muslims are eager to avoid offending Muslims. Do they ever consider why they are so easily offended? Will they ever realise that their unbelief is eternally offensive?
It is in this context that the hate speech legislators who are aiming to eliminate “all forms of intolerance” seem so misguided. Surely it is not unreasonable to feel sustained hostility towards a hateful doctrine like Islam? Surely such hostility is necessary in order to maintain vigilance and continue resistance to it? This hostility should not be confused with hatred. A temporary hostility mobilised in response to an eternal hatred will always be the lesser of two evils.
As Thomas Jefferson once wrote: I have sworn upon the alter of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.
Islam is a tyranny over the mind of man greater than any that has ever existed.